Mid-Life: Where Empowerment Meets Confusion

The Universe has been sending me a few signals lately that I need to return to the original theme of my blog, namely the journey through middle age. OK, Universe, I hear you and as always I am your humble servant.

Firstly, the ladies at Lipstick Rhetoric wrote two wonderful blog posts about middle life. In one they ask whether a mid-life crisis is tied to paid employment and whether as a result it is only a recent phenomenon in women  and in the other they write about a mid-life career crisis and whether this is attributable to the general midlife crisis phenomenon. Both of these posts resonated and I believe that the more people talk about this topic the better. All of us may be pioneers in our own lives and journeys, but none of us are pioneers in the wider sense. Ask enough questions, read and hang out long enough and you will come across those experiencing the same feelings, asking the same questions. Let’s use this wonderful technology to laugh, communicate and support each other and I don’t just mean the women. Men, your input into this issue is important, valuable and extremely necessary. I know it’s difficult for men to overcome the notion that they must remain strong, but men, let me tell you, there is no weakness in talking about this. Rather there is an honesty and level of self awareness that should be applauded. After all, that is the first step to change.

Furthermore, the only certainty in life besides death and taxes is that nothing is actually certain. Anything can change in a blink of an eye. To me, middle age, more than any other stage, teaches you how to deal with uncertainty to prepare you for the trials and tribulations you are bound to encounter in old age. It teaches you to question more deeply and that good planning will only get you so far. It gives you the confidence necessary to deal with the consequences of your decisions and to shed those parts of your skin that no longer work for you. Those that use middle age wisely can be reborn. Those that don’t will continue to struggle. Wisdom will usually require some tough decision and facing of fears.

There are some days when I feel like this

The second sign came from an article in our popular press over the weekend on how some Australian high-profile women are positively facing middle age. The article focused on women aged between their early forties to their early fifties, which of itself was an eye opener for me. I always wrongly held the notion that mid-life crisis point was only reached from the age of forty five but I suspect that soon we will be dropping the word “mid” from “mid-life crisis” and that more and more people will start their questioning and catharsis at an earlier age.  The impetus for this comes from several areas  – there are many more life style options that are available today and society in general has a more tolerant view on people embracing lifestyles and workstyles that are not considered to be conventional, if not totally alternate.  In that sense, these are exciting times.

I agree with the article that there are a lot of positives about middle age. I admit to a degree of trepidation at turning forty after I was too exhausted preparing for children when I turned thirty. But as my forties have worn on in terms of physicality, self-confidence and energy, I am embracing this decade like none before. After decades of trying, I finally have my weight under control and am embracing everything I can about finally being in proportion, including self confidence. What joy to have finally arrived at this point!!

I have concluded that middle age is that stage when empowerment meets confusion, rather than a number. There is no doubt the search of answers can be disconcerting, particularly if you had absolute direction to this point. The difficulty lies in realigning your life’s compass, after all you know so much more now than when you initially set it. True north, though, is still true north!

The hard part for me is finding the time and space to strategize about my own life whilst still being there for my family.  These are the absolute truths I have discoved about  middle age:

    • rebirth is not easy
    • strategizing takes time
    • you can’t strategize effectively with other noise in your head
    • you can’t turn the Titanic around on a dime
    • you can’t turn the Titanic around without affecting the position of other nearby boats
    • a mid-life crisis is harder on the partner not going through it.

The reference to “Titanic” here is as a symbol for a large ship, not a sinking one!

Like I said at the start of my blog, I am not a self-help guru and I have no wish to preach at anyone. I hope by outlining my thoughts and feelings about my own journey others may feel less alone, less disconcerted. There is much strength to be gained from solidarity and discussion. And if a friendship or two develops along the way, so much the better.

Have you discovered any truths or insights about mid-life? I would love to hear from you.

About the curtain raiserhttp://raisingthecurtain.netI have spent my life in offices. For now I am putting that behind me and preparing for the second act. Middle age didn't come with acceptable signposts so I am making my own through my writing. A journey shared is more fun than going it solo.

36 thoughts on “Mid-Life: Where Empowerment Meets Confusion

  1. You’re preaching to the choir, baby! Though as usual your clarity was insightful. I am finding with the middle age struggle a reverse to you in many ways compared to in our youth. The essence of the struggle is the same and the goals are the same but your life has been quiet planned until now where as mine has not; i have gone with what came along and planned nothing which can be quiet a challenge with children.

    As they have grown I have grown with them and I am finding that the struggle for me now is planning the next stage of my family and trying to belatedly teach my children some vital skills that I have missed along the way.

    It is a challenge to reorginize my thinking, my life and like you walk a path of self discovery with writing rather than hiding behind it. I am finding your blogs more and more enlightening for me and the format and fascinating.Your growth with them even more so.

      • Thanking you. This particular blog provoked a great deal of thought in me. I was contemplating this within the context of our parents generation. Around the age of mid 40’s in their world their working life was beginning to wind down. They were beginning to focus on the decline of their working life, facing down the barrel of retirement. This has changed a great deal with retirement not necessarily being a goal in that of generation x and also gen y. In their day the social focus and approach to work came from the point of find a good job and have it for life.
        That no longer exists. Many people have several different careers in a life time. I am on my third tour of duty with the university system and am yet again changing track. Gen X and gen Y are not focusing on the big R of retirement. Instead career in many ways has become life style and people look to work as a career rather than a means to an end and do not want to go quietly into the night choosing instead to focus on self fuliment and the changes that come with that paradigm shift.
        This has been a very thought provoking post of me, Judy and I have found it ticking around in my mind more often than not in the last 24 hours.

  2. Now that I’ve reached that dreaded middle-age, I’ve learned the importance of not saying “someday.” Someday I’ll do this, or someday I’ll do that. Who knows when or if that someday will come? Best to go after what you want, even if it takes years of baby steps to get there.

    Thanks for an enjoyable post. 🙂

  3. I’m like you my blog is juts for me sorting my thoughts, I don’t claim to have the answer but maybe I can help others figure out their own thoughts by sharing mine 🙂

  4. Do I consider myself “lucky” that the hubby and I are going through this at the same time? If nothing else, it has certainly opened up the gates of conversation and feelings, it has its challenges, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

    • It’s working the opposite in our house and hubby and I are the same age. If you can share and talk then that’s a real boon. My poor hubby is confused about the changes I am going through even after I have tried to explain what I feel. It’s probably because he’s not there…. yet.

  5. Looking backward from the age of 53, I think when I started to become more fulfilled began when I volunteered with various charity groups helping those in need. The Executive Director of a group helping homeless families likes to say “who is ministering to whom?” Our volunteers (me included) get as much from the interaction as those in need. It also supports the biblical saying “there but by the grace of God go I.” So, I am constantly encouraging people to find their passion and volunteer to help. I tutored a couple of 5th graders in math and my whole family was happy when they passed their End of Grade tests. You may have a passion for dance or pottery that you could share. One of the greatest challenges for impoverished children is learning how to read as they have few or no books. And, like the Nike commercial says, “just do it.”

    • I agree with you OF. At middle age one starts looking for more meaningful pursuits and the concept of “giving back” looms large. I have mentored disabled and other students on a volunteer basis and plan to do a whole lot more in the volunteer space. Oh, and I have also become a Nike/JDI kind of girl in recent times, so much so I have coined the expression “Having a JDI moment”. Another wonderful comment from you – thank you.

  6. I liked and admired the content of your post, and skimmed through the comments and replies quickly, because it’s late here, and I’m tired. So I’ll be back to share some thoughts and join the conversation soon, when I’m more wide awake.

  7. I didn’t feel middle aged until I hit age 45, and then it took 10 years for me to resolve my mid life crisis. Earlier in life, I had a ten year long adolescence in which I refused to grow up, so I guess it takes a decade for me to adjust to these big life changes.

    But at around age 45, I asked myself “Is this how everything was supposed to work out? Is this the life I’m really supposed to be living? Or is the life that I find myself in now, just the end result of a long series of random accidents, coincidences and questionable decisions? Did I let life just happen to me, instead of steering in a clear direction towards well defined goals?”

    It took me the next 10 years to answer that question, and my life during those years was at times, very tumultuous. Mistakes were made, and some of those mistake had serious consequences. Finally only within the last year, I felt like I had come to the end of a long journey and found my answers – and enough so to be at peace with my conclusions.

    My conclusion is that the past is gone, and the only value in revisiting the past, is to learn from it. The future in this life is very uncertain, and the best I can do with regard to the future, is to carefully plan for my future, and then be ready to adjust, adapt and survive, when life takes unpredictable turns that give me no choice but to change my plans.

    More importantly, I realized the value of living in the present moment, instead of regretting the past, and being overly concerned about a future that I can’t predict. I learned that through the daily discipline of practicing control of my thoughts and feelings, that peace of mind can be found within me, even when there is very little peace around me.

    I learned the true value of forgiveness, by forgiving others, and by forgiving myself. I learned the value of gratitude, and the recognition of all that is good in my life, while opening my eyes to the fact that whatever my problems are, there are so many others in the world, both nearby and far away, who are dealing with much worse in their lives than I am. There are so many people who would jump at the chance to have the kind of life that I’m fortunate enough to be living right now.

    I learned that there is true happiness to be found in making other people happy, and that laughter is a precious gift that should be shared as often as possible. I learned that the greatest treasure of all in life, is knowing that I am truly loved, and that I am loved because I am able to express love for those who love me. I am able to love them in return because I am able to love and forgive myself, regardless of my faults and failings, because I know that I am sincerely trying to do better.

  8. Hello Curtain Raiser and other bloggers,
    I am 46 year old woman, who has been in a midlife crisis probably already a good 10 years now. It concerns major career confusion. To tell you the truth I have tried so many therapies (psychology, spiritual counselling, hypnotherapy, reiki, spiritual healing, career advisers), read so many books, spoke to a few people in certain industries and still feel blocked/confused. Its like my HEAD and my HEART do not meet and are in constant conflict. Since I was in Year 10 I have carried a huge stigma of not being smart enough to go onto university. My Year 10 English teacher confirmed that I failed English and needed to repeat, plus I was not capable of university. I know I have so many FEARS, unknowns and uncertainties. A few ideas have come about where I have devised a complex table of career pathways, which unfortunately this process still hasn’t resonated any ideas nor given any clarity. My issue have effected me socially, morally, emotionally, psychologically. Feel like I am running out of confidence, energy and faith. I need to be realistic and practical that certain industries aren’t that viable and my age is against me? I am definitely not a corporate person as well as seeking a transportable career that allows for a location change. Could you kindly shed some wisdom on how to shift through my barrier/burden that I hold? Even sending such a message about my dilemmas makes me feel guilty, as all I hear on the news that the whole world is experiencing a lot of pain due to economic instability and unemployment. Is this is good as it gets?

    • Hi Patricia, your confusion sounds very similar to where I was a few years ago. I had a career that I loved for 20 years and then the love just stopped. My head and heart were definitely out of sync. I battled with these feelings for about 7 months and then finally conceded that I couldn’t work out a meaningful strategy whilst I was in the job I hated. So I stopped working to work things out. I actually left that position (something I have never done before lining up a new job) with the notion that I would never work again. Thankfully after a couple of months, clarity came as to my priorities, what I enjoyed, what I needed to take me through the next 10 years. I discovered that it is quite OK to change careers paths and plans and that if you want it bad enough you will find a way to make it happen. The age thing and the guilt were with me also, but I kept looking at the things I could offer a prospective employer. The upshot of all of this is that I now have a job I love and have started uni study in an area that it is not related directly to my work. I have done that for a couple of reasons, one for enjoyment, two to expand my horizons and three to develop skills I need in case I ever want to give up my current career. It is never to late. I was older than you when I started the study.

      So in terms of your question, is this is good as it gets? The answer for me is that it gets better, because I finally had the courage to overcome my fears and take action. The other thing I realised as it is not always possible to move to the perfect job in just one step. Sometimes you have to find one that ticks most of the boxes and work your way into the perfect one. You never know what opportunities come your way if you actively seek them.

      I don’t know if this would work for you, but I have not looked back. I hope you find your way.

      • Hello,
        I have been in this confusion for over 10 years, causing depression and anxiety sort of at the same time almost. Been battling this for so long now; I know I suffer from a personal identity crisis. I am a single lady and really don’t have another partner to help me through this, so I keep battling on my own. As I have already mentioned seen numerous therapists over the years and nothing has resonated or that I hold that many deep FEARS, which has cause BLOCKAGE/PARALYSIS. I feel at times so vulnerable that I get overwhelmed and confused on what direction to take in life. Its a constant vicious cycle and battle. Hoping you could shed some light on this.

  9. Patricia,
    I feel your pain and confusion! I am 53 and have been agonizing over a career change for several years. I knew over 10 years ago that I needed a career change and opted to follow a different avenue within the same career. That gave me some relief for a number of years, but the truth is…this just isn’t my passion. At my age, I hesitate to incur debt to go back to school for a higher degree within the same field (most logical, money wise, on paper), but yearn to just go in a completely different direction. Going into a new field means starting at the bottom of the pay scale again. And one’s health at this age often is not what it used to be.
    Solutions. For now, I am volunteering and joining groups that inspire me and allow me to be around those that share my passion. Not only do I get joy from helping but rub elbows with those of like mind, and have an opportunity to make new friends. I have come to the same conclusion as “curtain raiser” in the Titanic analogy…you can’t turn it around on a dime, and what you do affects those around you. Frustrating for those of us who feel the clock is ticking faster and answers are slow to come. My hope is that I my volunteer work may eventually lead to a new vocation, either within these organizations or through networking.
    Other paths to a solution are googling “mid-life empowerment” and other such descriptives that lead me to sites such as this one. I also google careers that cross my mind, and am gathering the courage to go see a career counselor at the local university. I am making up my mind that when I find the right “fit” in a career to pursue that I am not going to be dissuaded by anyone that pooh poohs it because of my age. Passion and determination, along with skill, can make you successful against the odds.
    Good luck!

  10. I struggled with my midlife crisis. I have been struggling with personal issues for 10 years and have found reaching out online to seek the advice of others has helped me through the good and bad time. I had a ton of issues with my midlife crisis and have started to follow the advice of Dr. Robi Ludwig. I saw her on a tv show once and I really appreciated her take on current psychological issues. She has written two books but my favorite book is with Your Best Age is Now I have read it and loved it! I highly recommend it to anyone out there struggling with dealing with midlife. I got hit hard during my 40’s and this book really helped me to become a better version of myself. I really found that educating myself helped me to get over the mid-life crisis hump.

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